Watch SpaceX Bring World's First Private Lunar Mission Into Space

Watch SpaceX Bring World's First Private Lunar Mission Into Space

The Israeli spacecraft was launched using Elon Musk's SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket together with USA and Indonesian satellites.

"Beresheet" will circumnavigate the earth repeatedly in order to pick up speed before it zooms toward the moon, where it is expected to land on April 11. After that, it will take a month to reach an orbit 250 miles from Earth, and then continue to circle farther out until it is captured into a lunar orbit.

The SpaceIL mission robot will be " the smallest spacecraft landed on the moon to date ". The 1,290-pound (585-kilogram) spacecraft was built by Israeli nonprofit space venture SpaceIL and state-owned defense contractor Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) with $100 million furnished nearly entirely by private donors.

A Falcon9 rocket took off from Cape Canaveral Air Force Station in Florida carrying an Israeli spacecraft that seeks to measure the magnetic field of the moon as the spacecraft lands, according to The New York Times.

Israel seeks to become only the fourth country to successfully land on the moon, after Russian Federation, the United States, and China.

(An Indonesian communications satellite and a small payload for the U.S. Air Force were also nestled inside the Falcon 9's payload fairing.) "We knew we didn't have a Saturn V [to get to the moon], so we're using SpaceX", Yigal Harel, head of SpaceIL's spacecraft program, said during a pre-launch news conference on Wednesday night.

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"It's a big step for Israel but a giant step for Israeli technology". After all, the Apollo missions flew directly to the moon, landing less than a week after launch. The proportion of flight-proven to new booster launches is likely to continue to grow in 2019, ultimately reaching a point where new boosters are limited to inaugural hardware debuts or specific contractual requests from conservative United States government customers.

The rocket's two other payloads were a telecommunications satellite for Indonesia and an experimental satellite for the US Air Force.

But as the competition wore on, it became apparent that none of the companies were going to be able to meet the deadline to land on the moon, and so Google ultimately scrapped the competition in March 2018. President Reuven Rivlin hosted a pajama party with schoolchildren, hoping the lunar mission will galvanize science education in Israel the way the Apollo space program did in the USA decades earlier. More recently, China's Chang'e-4 spacecraft reached lunar orbit a few days after launch. NASA has a laser reflector aboard Beresheet and is offering its Deep Space Network for communication.

Lunar surface operations are meant to last just two days.

SpaceX released photos from the launch shortly after it happened. It's the third time that booster has been launched and recovered, with its next launch planned for April.

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